Scores: Literary Maneuvers April 2019 "The Butterfly Effect"

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Thread: Scores: Literary Maneuvers April 2019 "The Butterfly Effect"

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    Scores: Literary Maneuvers April 2019 "The Butterfly Effect"

    They're here, they're here! Sorry I'm so late. Anyway, quite the spread of marks here, with entries scoring across the board. And the sheer number of entries plus a full complement of judges is very encouraging to see, so thank you all for that. Right then, let's see what we have.

    Arachne:

    Feedback
    SpAG: 3
    Tav: 3
    Effect: 6
    Total: 12


    SpAG
    Although the writing is a straight forward read, there a quite a number of errors including –
    The first semi-colon should be a comma.
    Thoughts should be in italics, or speech marks different to the speech ones (in your case singles). Your thoughts seem like normal speech. At one point the girl even answers to something the mc thinks. This is confusing.
    ‘"You don't have much time Doctor," she smiled sorrowfully.’ - This should have a full stop after the speech as ‘she smiled sorrowfully’ is not a dialogue tag, it’s an action so should be in another sentence.
    I think some brushing up on punctuation would be very beneficial to you.

    TaV
    This was OK but I wasn’t really drawn in by the mc. His reactions did not seem very realistic considering his situation. Also, I’m afraid I didn’t really care whether he lived or died. The girl character was a bit more interesting with her sense of humour etc.
    I’m not a fan of sci-fi so maybe I just found him a bit boring because of that but I really would have liked to see a bit of his personality. Why is this so important to him? Why is it so bad if he dies? Is he a really outgoing family man or a lonely guy with 20 cats who’ll eat his corpse after he’s gone? Often it is making the reader care about the mc which makes the story, rather than simply telling what happens (I have discovered this through a couple of failed LM challenges so you are not alone!).

    Effect
    Given everything I have just said you would think I hated the story but I didn’t. It held my attention mostly, which is not an easy thing, and I think I understood it. It lacked character development and suspense though and I think the plot did allow for this.

    Overall, the story was worth submitting and I think you have potential as a writer. Polishing grammar and punctuation would be an instant improvement as it would allow the reader to stay in the story rather then getting distracted.
    Thanks for submitting and please do another one for us next month!

    Toilet Paper Wings
    SpAG: 4
    Tav: 4
    Effect: 7.5
    Total: 15.5


    SpaG
    Some incorrect use of semi-colons. Some word repetition, which was a bit distracting.
    ‘skywriters stream’ – Should be ‘skywriter’s stream.’

    TaV
    The tone was good. I enjoyed the voice of the narrator, who seemed to be mocking the historian. There were some inconsistencies though. For example, using ‘curriculum vitae’ instead of CV was formal, reflecting the mc’s personality, but then there were informal bits like ‘Pricey stuff’ (which I thought was a gem btw). One or the other should have been used. If it’s any use to you, I think the relaxed tone was better as it helped mock the mc.

    Effect
    I liked the story, finding it engaging and funny in several parts. I enjoyed the way it was written in tight paragraphs as it reflected the mc’s personality. I also liked your take on the prompt, which was nicely explained in the title. I’m not sure I got the joke though. I thought the ending was going to be much more explosive and was reading with one eye open, expecting something much more humiliating (and messy). Also, the meaning of the last line eluded me as I couldn’t tell who was speaking and what it really meant.

    Overall, a funny and enjoyable piece. Thanks for submitting.


    Near Miss
    SpAG: 3
    Tav: 3.5
    Effect: 7.5
    Total: 14


    SpaG
    ‘Pulled up’ and ‘running up’ so close together was distracting.
    Hands are mittened, not arms. Though I don’t think mittened is a word.
    ‘”Suppose it's hardly kidnapping if I wanted to go, is it?”’ Change in tense here. Should be ‘want’.
    ‘Now outside town the mare had resumed fast canter, but. I was too busy contemplating what she said.’ This doesn’t make sense at all. There shouldn’t be a full stop in the middle of it but even if that wasn’t there the sentence is odd; he’s too busy to what?
    ‘“Adolf,” His small voice oddly resonant in the gathering dark, “Adolf Hitler.”’ Awkward, there should be a full stop after the first dialogue, then it should be ‘His small voice was oddly resonant’. Or ‘he said, his small voice oddly resonant’. Shame, because the last line was so important here.

    TaV
    Good tone and voice. I get something about the characters and setting from it, which is great. There are inconsistencies though. Anna seems a bit too informal, for the daughter of a viscount in that period, when she uses conjunctions. Similarly, some of the words and phrases are anachronistic ie ‘typical man’ and ‘what’s the hurry’, which are common modern phrases. That’s not to say that she may not have used them but it risks distracting from the piece and causing confusion about the period.

    Effect
    The effect of the story itself was good because of the ending; it’s something that everyone can understand the significance of. The story had suspense as well, which made it fun to read. However, before the suspense and the reveal, I did find the story a bit boring. The first line, though funny, did not grab me as much as it could have, considering the twist at the end. Also, I was not too concerned about the characters. It felt a bit like you were passing the time to get to the end (understandable as it was exciting!).

    Overall, I really enjoyed this entry, thanks for sharing!

    The Butterfly Effect
    SpAG: 4.5
    Tav: 3.5
    Effect: 5.5
    Total: 13.5


    SpaG
    Good. Not much wrong here.
    This dialogue would have been better with a comma after nutjob – ‘“Oh good, a nutjob.” I mumbled into my pint.’ And you should have included one after ‘said’ here – Lorenz said ‘A butterfly’’- The italics and capital was a bit awkward here too. If it is a quote it might have been clearer to write ‘Lorenze quoted,’.

    TaV
    Tone and voice were OK. There was a clear shift from down and depressed in the beginning to upbeat and hopeful at the end.
    I didn’t feel I got to know the characters that well though. Some more clues about the main character’s life would have been good, although I could get just enough sense of him to care.

    Effect
    This started off pretty good for me. I was very interested in what was going to happen. However, I’m afraid I was disappointed in the ending as nothing seemed to happen apart from the guy having a dream and a finding butterfly on his shoulder. I guess he put some kind of positivity spell on him? Apologies if I’m missing the point but if you have a conclusion which might elude some readers, be sure to make it very clear what has happened as some of us are not as good with clues as others. A more impactful ending may have been possible if you had thought about what could have happened due to his shift in attitude. Perhaps something which was an issue in the beginning could have been resolved at the end? A bad relationship with a neighbour or his child or something. Or moving from buying a gun to kill himself at the beginning to throwing it in a river at the end.

    Overall, this was well-written and easy to read. You clearly have potential. Please write another one for us next time!

    It Could Have Been Anyone
    SpAG: 2
    Tav: 2
    Effect: 4
    Total: 8


    SpaG
    Lots of problems with sentence structure and grammar.
    ‘She held her breathe’ – This should be breath.
    ‘low level’ – Should be hyphenated
    ‘they would lay off her for a little’ – should be ‘lay of her a little’ or ‘for a little while’

    TaV
    I think the tone could have been more appropriate given the situation of the mc, she seems a bit ambivalent.

    Effect
    I just did not get this at all. There were far too many references to made-up items for me. I couldn’t read the story for wondering what ‘shards’ are, what ‘ichor’ is for example. I do not like fantasy though so you’re onto a loser with me there.
    I don’t really know what happened either. It almost seemed like a longer story with bits cut out to fit, leaving a piece that made no real sense.

    If nothing else, the ‘compliant guinea pig’ made me laugh out loud so thanks for that!
    Please do have another try, it can take quite a few attempts to enter something that goes down well. Also, I’m really critical and hard to please ��


    Tragedy of the Blind Lepidopterist
    SpAG: 3.5
    Tav: 2
    Effect: 3
    Total: 8.5


    SpaG
    Overall, not too bad. Some awkward sentence structures.
    ‘Lopgaitedly’ is not a word. It could work with a hyphen.

    TaV
    This was all over the place. Was it a report, several reports? I couldn’t tell who was telling what story or who the main characters were. Seems futuristic but then the language used in the dialogue was archaic. Confusing.

    Effect
    I’m sorry that I didn’t get this – possibly wrong audience.
    The first bad thing for me is the font – no need, headache inducing, just don’t.
    As for the content, it started off good with the baby being abandoned but then you leapt onto something else, then something else, then something else. I was lost. I don’t think there is anything wrong with your ability to write but for the majority if readers, I think a more ordinary narrative is preferable, especially in such a tight word limit, where it’s difficult to get close to even one character.
    Dialogue was funny though and, looking back again, there are quite a few funny bits throughout.

    You clearly have some ability and I’d like to read something more to my taste so I can appreciate it. Thanks for submitting!


    Upon Wings of passion
    SpAG: 4
    Tav: 4.5
    Effect:5
    Total: 13.5


    SpaG
    Mostly good but a bit awkward here and there.
    ‘Through a passage: two figures darted alongside me. A girl holding the hand of a young boy.’ – Colon makes no sense here. Would be better after ‘alongside me’ but not necessary anywhere really.

    TaV
    Tone and voice very fitting for the piece. The voice suits the genre and period and in very consistent. The tone sets the scene well and is very engaging.

    Effect
    I had to mark this low because I just didn’t understand what was going on. I guess the person being burned was a witch, but this is not made clear enough (people have been burned on stakes for lots of reasons). It also wasn’t clear when she died so I had to read back to see if I’d missed it. I also didn’t understand what the significance of the boy and girl was or who the last line refers to. The whole thing was a bit too confusing, even though I read it four times.

    Overall, there was some good writing here and I wish I had been able to decipher the plot and significance of the ending because it was probably good.


    The Butterfly Effect


    SpaG
    Almost flawless.
    “But, she can’t. The took the box.” - Simple error.

    TaV
    I felt for the mc here. The voice was consistent, if a little mainstream, and the tone was suitably sad and defiant.

    Effect
    This was not good on the first reading as there were simply too many characters all squished in. In a piece of this size it is vital to have the absolute minimum of names included. If you need a few more people just generalise rather than naming them as it is way too confusing. Similarly, the names of the mother and daughter are too similar, which was also confusing.
    The second read was much better and I understood what was going on and who was who. The trouble is most people wouldn’t read twice.
    The story was very sad with a pleasant, heart-warming ending, showing what was really important; not the job but the kids.
    I think you have loads of potential to write stories about real people and the real world, which I love most, but you absolutely need to cut back the characters and info to a minimum. Remember that just because you know who everyone is and what’s going on, that doesn’t mean that a first-time reader will.

    Overall, I enjoyed your character. Thanks for the submission!


    Out of Time
    SpAG: 4.5
    Tav: 3
    Effect:7
    Total: 14.5


    SpaG
    Almost perfect but a couple of unnecessary commas (pesky things!)

    TaV
    Tone and voice were apt or the piece if a bit generic and clichéd.

    Effect
    The effect was pretty good. I was interested in the story and the ending was very effective. You managed to give a slow release of the reveal towards the end, which was a nice change from a single line reveal.
    The whole thing was a bit heavy with clichés, though. The creaking door, the man in the suit, the dark room, pulling a chair up, smoking.
    The android double was an interesting twist.

    Overall, an enjoyable story with a good, solid ending. Thanks so much for submitting.

    A Memory from the Past
    SpAG: 3.5
    Tav: 3.5
    Effect:8
    Total: 15


    SpaG
    ‘The freckled face looked familiar to him, almost as he knew her somehow.’ – Should be ‘as if’
    ‘nausea on the side.” He said.’ – This should have a comma instead of a full stop, then no capital on ‘he’. (There are lots more examples of this same error.)
    No too much else wrong here. Maybe a couple of extra commas (my guilty pleasure).
    A quick read up on dialogue punctuation would be a good idea.

    TaV
    Very appropriate tone and voice. Could be a tad more interesting but apt for the story none the less.

    Effect
    A lovely little story! I really enjoyed this. It was nice and simple, easy to read and packed a delicate little punch to the right spot. Good hook in the opening. Two good characters. Clear meaning. Not too overdramatic. Well done.


    07291878 rocky mountain

    SpaG
    Not much to note here but a few issues.
    ‘Down comes a thick rope noosed.’ – Should have had a comma before ‘noosed.’
    ‘And I know you too.’ – Should have had a comma before ‘too.’
    I think it is particularly important for the punctuation to be spot-on in a piece of this style, as misinterpretation is even more likely otherwise.

    TaV
    Some excellent examples of good tone and voice here, creating a really original feel. Suitable for the subject and period setting.

    Effect
    A bit lost on me I’m afraid. Even though I know the crisis it refers to, I don't know much about it and didn’t understand what was going on, who the characters were, or what the conclusion meant. Not enough clarity for me. Left me feeling like I might be a bit stupid (and I have a first-class degree in a history-based subject!). Perhaps if I knew more about the crisis I would have got it, but I didn't have time to research and, IMO, you shouldn't have to do that. Most readers would not enjoy a story if they had to work so hard to understand it. That makes it something other than a short story to me.
    A shame as there was some good writing there, dialogue in particular.

    Overall, an interesting style with some lovely writing but didn’t work for me.

    Family Tree
    SpAG: 4.5
    Tav: 3.5
    Effect:5
    Total: 13



    SpaG
    Almost perfect. Perhaps a few too many semi-colons for me but that’s only my opinion.
    ‘Maybe she could reach the pretty thing with it?’ This is in italics as if it is a thought but it’s not written in first person, so shouldn’t be in italics.

    TaV
    Appropriate for the piece, if a bit boring. Simple-style suits the voice of the chimp.

    Effect
    I’m not a fan of animal POVs as they usually lack character. This was not bad, though. It was nice and clear in the first line that the mc was a primate but it was not too over-done, which was good.
    The idea for the story was good and I really like the way the ending was done. The story was a bit boring before the ending though.

    Overall, good idea and written in a clear style. Thank for submitting!


    Change Time
    SpAG: 2
    Tav: 3
    Effect:4
    Total: 9


    SpaG
    There are quite a few issues here, like missing spaces and letters. More editing was needed.
    Some awkward and/or incorrect sentence structure, too. Such as – ‘An inky blackness enveloped him, and his final thought was of a butterfly flapping its wings over a field in Peking, wishing he could change what had occurred.’ – The last bit doesn’t fit.
    ‘Footsteps pounded the stairs and shrill screams fill the air as she ran into the room.’ – Change in tense in the middle.
    ‘In a dark auditorium, her name is called again. His daughter strolled across the stage wearing her cap and gown.’ – Same here (and in other places). Bold is mine.

    TaV
    Tone was apt, sad, reflective. Voice was suitable but generic.

    Effect
    I’m afraid this did not have much impact on me as the writing was not properly edited (maybe lack of time).
    I appreciate the idea behind it and it did come out in the story fairly clearly, at least I understood what happened.
    The info about his daughter’s life was a bit boring, not making me care about her or him and not really building any tension.

    Overall, okay idea and some good imagery but needed revising and editing properly. Thanks for the submission!


    bdcharles:

    "FEEDBACK"
    Tim

    SPaG: 3/5
    T/V: 4/5
    Effect: 6/10
    Total: 13/20

    A neat idea. And an easy read. I am not immediately super hooked in but equally I'm not prevented from reading on - I think it is the emphasis on tiredness that initially stalled me. I like to read things that have dynamism and when I'm faced with someone who's tired, and everything's drab, it kind of infects the experience. But your story picks up pretty soon after so that's all ok.

    This sentence isn't grammared quite right:
    "Carbon-dioxide vapor escaped the cooling-jacket overflows, drifting lazily downward and rolled across the floor."
    Should possible be "rolling across the floor"

    Likewise, this:
    "An icy ball of fear churned in the pit of his stomach, for somehow, he was seated awkwardly in his chair in front of her."
    doesn't scan right. It reads as if the fear he feels is a direct consequence of his seating position. But I'm not seeing it.

    The door smashed back on it's hinges <- no apostrophe in possessive of "it"

    The bigger issue is I am just not sure what's happened. He is about to get busted for something (we don't know what), he has a time machine that he attempts to use and then - we're faced with some imp with a gun. Has he gone forward? Backward? Anywhere at all? Who's the girl? Did he die? What's this issue with feedback? We've all seen Back to the Future, we know about the whole flap-of-the-wing paradigm and hell, I was even watching The Butterfly Effect the other day so I feel I have some rudimentary grounding in the narrative options, but I was just not fully able to follow. Still, it was pretty exciting stuff written in a good Thriller-ish sort of voice and I was able to picture it well, so good stuff there. I like the use of sound (as in amplifier feedback) as a device for tension. And I enjoyed the character of the little girl with the gun and the attitude.



    ---

    "Toilet Paper Wings"
    SueC

    SPaG: 4/5
    T/V: 5/5
    Effect: 6/10
    Total: 15/20

    Right out of the gate, I'm loving both title and opening line. Why? They have rhythm, and they make something odd, grotesque, beautiful even, from of something mundane - I'm hoping our small, proverbial butterfly. Let's see where it goes.

    I want to say: resist the urge to overwrite; eg:

    "was able to provide a lengthy discourse on any period of history that may be discussed"

    the repetition of discourse/discuss make it seem too much like you want to be seen to be writing. But... I can't shake the notion that it's by design. Previously you have this:

    "Jonathan Drake was a fastidious man. He had been educated in the country's most prestige universities,"

    which, leaving aside the fact that you presumably meant prestigious (.5 SPaG, sorry, have to and another for a few very minor punctuation wobbles), has a little rhyme in it. I'll have to see if this occurs elsewhere. I like the voice too. It's upper class (itself a rich vein for humour), educated and ever-so-slightly high-falutinly comedic, which continues throughout.

    In terms of a narrative journey, it doesn't go ~too~ many places. There is a sense of it being redemptive arc of Jonathan Drake. Is the broccoli the butterfly wing that causes chaos to burble, then erupt, to Drake's straight and orderly life? I don't know. It could be, but if so the sense of disorder probably needs amping up, else the prompt is not hugely in evidence. But your trademark command of language is apparent, and it's very stylish, with a feel of the comedy-of-manners about it, which I feel is your natural home and therefore a strength.

    ---

    "Near Miss"
    Luckyscars

    SPaG: 5/5
    T/V: 5/5
    Effect: 8/10
    Total: 18/20

    In researching my own WIP I've done some research on carriages, which has since developed into a bit of a geekout. Possibly we've had this conversation before, but I'm a fan of the phaeton, the rig and the charabanc. I might have to add cariole to that fleet of beauties. Point? I'm hooked by this sort of time signifier. Ditto the Holsteiner, though I confess I did think you had cows drawing the cart. No idea why; it is a horse. And I don't even know what a kaross is, yet I want one. The precise diction of the Austro-Hungarian aristocrat s captured with an artist's fidelity (not that I know that many Counts and Barons and whatnot). I did drop you two effect points because at first I thought this was some verdant mountain fiefdom, then suddenly it's snowy and we're heading for the sea. Some hot date. The geography may be correct but it wobbled for me. I also thought the title could use little more oomph.

    Oh. The end. Yep. Ok. Not sure what more I can say about that. Was wondering where you were going vis-a-vis the prompt until this. Gathering dark indeed. Well done.


    ---

    "The Butterfly Effect"
    buck06191

    SPaG: 4.5/5
    T/V: 3/5
    Effect: 6/10
    Total: 13.5/20

    No issues on the writing here - only one little punctuation fault in an otherwise largely faultless piece. And you have some great expressions: "whirling mess of colour", "throwing the sea into a froth", and so on. The events up to that point were a little flat for me, and the voice was a little generic though it did pick up very nicely at "That night I dreamt of a thousand butterflies". I wanted that to be your opener - remeniscent of "Rebecca". There is a fair bit of filtering - I looked, I saw, I gazed, I could hear - which tends to take readers out of the story because it puts our attention not on the thing, but on the person noticing the thing, which may not be so interesting. Thnk about your titles also - they are the first glance at your writing, so make them count. But The ending was very cool, with the motif of the Lorenz butterfly-curvy-8 thingy recurring. Good entry - thanks

    ---

    "It Could Have Been Anyone "
    Bardling

    SPaG: 3/5
    T/V: 4.5/5
    Effect: 8/10
    Total: 15.5/20

    Okay I really enjoy the sudden dive into "the situation", whatever the situation is. It. And you use the title well to set us up with a question - what happened? - segueing smoothly into the text by way of answer. By the first paragraph I am pretty hooked in. And you have lots of great expressions. I would suggest maybe cutting the occasional word; eg: "scratching a living at the edges of greater things", which I wanted to read as "living at the edges of greater things". Both are fine, but with the cut it would, I feel, have given it, I dunno, an extra shine. "servant" is repeated in quite close succession, which wobbles me out of the moment a bit. The voice is really good and carries the comma splice, "She could summon a phantom servant to carry supplies or loot, she could skin an animal or gather useful plants", which is usually a massive pet peeve of mine. This: "Light reflected off the edges of something embedded in a spider with a green and gold pattern on its back." read a bit clunkily for me so just make sure your sentences don't overcomplicate themselves. Few SPaGs: "fighters" needs an apostrophe for possession. "breathe" should be "breath" here, which along with occasinal convoluted sentence structure, is probably your most pressing thing to work on. But I really enjoyed this world you have set up. I took from this that the prompt is in the way a small worker can have large consequences via what we might call luck. Well done - great stuff.




    ---

    "Tragedy of the blind Lepidopterist"
    Rookish

    SPaG: 5/5
    T/V: 5/5
    Effect: 7.5/10
    Total: 17.5/20

    Well I love the title. And I love your opening line and the quirky style of it. Great phrases in here: "polychromatic sky", "quarter of a billion souls" - for definite I am feeling this dystopia. There does appear quite soon a possible tendency to overdo it though - "crawling through his bushy beard to bombard the room." seemed a little much for me, and sort of makes everything seem too dense and busy, with all the names, where before it was very cool. Also we have changed situations when we get to Arno. I don't quite know what to make of Arno, and that risks making it harder to keep track of. You do recapture it somewhat with "Had his brains spattered upon his wife" - this sort of succinct phrasing is a strength so play to it. "rocking pot of pandemonium" - love that. There is quite a big cast, but in a way it does work, reflecting the madcap chaos that is happening. I can only suppose that the prompt is ... well, I don't really know. Did chaos reign over Earth's weather systems, or ... or is the chaos in the wild, spiralling storyline, and I love how that ends, by the way, in that bittersweet aloe garden, a sparkling gift in the midst of a storm. A really great read, all in all - knocked down just a couple of points by a slight tendency to lose control of the style and subject matter, and a disconnect between title and text. But it's all good. Thanks


    ---

    "Upon Wings of Passion"
    epimetheus

    SPaG: 5/5
    T/V: 5/5
    Effect: 8/10
    Total: 18/20

    Some great worldbuilding here, concocting the environment and the sense of some event having happened, alongside the characterising. I love the voice too - all quasi-medieval and epic. We're straight into some terrible hellfire with all the crackings and the skeletals and the deliverings of death. You use some great narrative tricks - the Kindling/fuel/fire section stands out - plus qulity phrasing; "They froze in my gaze" etc.

    I'm not the hugest fan of the flames/licking combo - I just think there are plenty of other words that could be pressed into service to show fire; "licked" has seen some heavy usage. Ditto "Butterflies fluttered" - and was that some prompt-shoehorning in there?! These are the only things that dropped you some points with me. Awesome job though on making this accessible; eg: "when I prayed to silent gods that mercy was a thing" - modern phrasing against a fantasy backdrop, I'm all for that. While, narratively, not a massive amount happened, the sensory evocation more than made up for it. And yes, for my sins, I imagined that the POV was male. Burn me; set me to flame.


    ---

    "The Butterfly Effect"
    Megan Pearson

    Here's another one with the prompt as the title. Brave decision; let's see if you can pull it off. I am definitely feeling Mairi's struggle and the emotional payoff when she gets her brain scanner thing back and brings Mary out of her condition, it is very uplifting. Stylewise it is very smooth, very mature, and readable though perhaps more like an extract from something longer, whereas much short fiction relies on having a lot of unique voice about it. And there were quite alot of names but on reflection this didn't interfere with the story; if anything it contributed to the sense of people here there and everywhere trying to stop Mairi's research. Clever touch with hanging the prompt on the little girl by way of the word "mariposa". A great read


    ---

    "Out of Time"
    Stygian

    SPaG: 2.5/5
    T/V: 3/5
    Effect: 6.5/10
    Total: 12/20

    This is a pretty messed-up premise, and quite topical, what with the impact social media has had on our lives. For me though, there are a lot of generic sentences that have a very similar structure and the voice doesn't hugely jump out at me. Some SPaG around the dialog tagging, and also watch for shopworn phrases - "fought .. with all his strength", "Fear and dread was setting in" and so on. But I really enjoyed the twist ending, with Zuckerberg's body double, and the interpretation of the promot was smart. Good stuff


    ---

    "A Memory from the Past"
    Kebe

    SPaG: 3/5
    T/V: 3/5
    Effect: 6/10
    Total: 12/20

    A touching story. There were some grammar issues with dialog tagging, and the voice was rather generic, but you built tension well, and had me thinking that the girl/surgeon was going to butcher him, as though he had done something bad, so there was quite a payoff when you switched that about. But the use of the prompt was clever. It's good to see something other than the classic interpretations.



    "07291878 rocky mountain"
    Anonymous

    Great opening line after the date info, that is. And I enjoy the close POV - very sensory, with a strong sense of panic. I'm sure 'receeds' should be 'recedes'. Good verb choice though. I wasn't 100% sure what happened at the end. Did the person die? Who were they? But very interesting nonetheless.


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    "Family Tree"
    Anonymous

    SPaG: 5/5
    T/V: 4/5
    Effect: 6.5/10
    Total: 15.5/20

    Some lovely visual descriptions here, of the butterfly and the jungle. And the moment where Ata is no loner welcome in her tribe or troop us very poignant. Reminds me a little of the scene in 2001: A Spece Odyssey where the ramapithecines (or whatever they are) discover tools; you capture the significance of the momenbt well. The voice is ... a little basic for me, though you do a good job with the childlike, simple aspect of it. Tough challenge, to use the voice of an early arthropod. But good read, with no obvious errors. Well done


    ---

    "Change Time"
    Godofwine

    SPaG: 3.5/5
    T/V: 4/5
    Effect: 7/10
    Total: 15/20

    Some good phrases, eg: "cocked sideways in the middle of the highway", "a classroom of strange children of varying hues and colors". I felt the moment of impact could have been handled with a little more intensity, less like a steady countdown and either more like a "what the - BAM!" or, if you need time (which this story demands, it seems), put us in a state of uber-zenlike calm even as doom approaches. There are also several spelling and grammar issues. But it is very moving story. I loved the fact that this is in essence the moment of life flashing before one's eyes. It's occurred to me - when that happens, it's not the life one has lived, but the life one could, the life one won't live, that does the flashing as the mind struggles for survival at all costs. So it's great to see that captured here. Great story


    Megan Pearson:

    All contestants submitted great works and everyone wrote around the idea of the butterfly effect.



    “Feedback”
    By Tim, Post #2
    SPaG: 2.5
    T/V: 3.0
    Effect: 8.0
    Overall: 13.5

    SPaG: Things that need work: Semi-colon usage – beware of creating incomplete sentences. Coma usage – where subject and predicate don’t need to be divided. Ellipses – excessive (i.e., distracting) and improperly used. (Did you mean them as one continuous sentence or as separate sentences at the next capitalization? What if you tried: “Child’s play…! Me?”) Why is Police capitalized? Good job with capitalizing titles: Creation & The Butterfly Effect, etc.

    T&V: Spartan to a bit creepy. I got a sense everything had run its course, so the tone seems to add a bit of foreshadowing to the ending. Good job with this. However, I think the minor grammatical anomalies get in the way of the narrator’s voice b/c the reader has to re-read lines to figure out what the author might have meant where it’s choppy.

    Sounded rough: “out of money and time.” Isn’t it time and money?
    Like this rhyme: “rock band with a lousy sound-man.”
    Creative anthropomorphism: the pod hissing at Tom.

    Effect/Review: A down-on-his-luck inventor seeks to escape eviction in his time machine but finds it occupied by Gaia (?) instead. Concerned about preventing a feedback loop through the Butterfly effect, she sets Tom up with a weapon so that when the police burst through the door, they must use force. But all ends well b/c Tom gets the girl and the girl saves the universe. Great tie-in to this month’s LM challenge.

    Favorite sentence: Hardwood splinters flew through the air. It jumps off the page at the reader. Nice set up getting there; nice attention to detail. Good job.

    Hi, Tim. This was a very fun story. Who wouldn’t want their own time machine??? I like that it’s got a high concept, it moves quickly, and has a lot of foreshadowing. Had a nice opening, establishes a fast pace & sense of urgency. The close echoed the idea of death implied at the beginning (for me, nice close). Where I struggled was that when the action picked up, the narrative seemed to lose something. Certain connecting ideas seemed missing, which sent me as your reader stumbling around to keep up with the action. Otherwise, I enjoyed the reading about the Butterfly Effect & the possible destruction of the universe. Good job.



    “Toilet Paper Wings”
    By SueC, Post #4
    SPaG: 4.5
    T/V: 5
    Effect: 10
    Overall: 19.5

    SPaG: Minor nits only. Hyphen should not be followed by a space: Hand- tailored s/b hand-tailored. Missing coma to offset dependent clause: … luncheon and, not wanting to seem to finicky, he ate the…. Missing possessive coma: skywriter’s stream. Hmm. Not sure if the adjectival phrase ultra soft s/b ultra-soft or ultrasoft. (No points taken off.) Consider: …shower and shave, and of…

    T&V: Masterfully builds through steady pacing from a somber, meticulous account of a somber, meticulous man, to his transformation into a real human being. I think this piece is a great example of how control over spelling and grammar can convey the writer’s voice by doing much of the heavy lifting for her. Awesome.

    Lots of concrete imagery & attention to detail: Singapore, gold flecks, skywriter’s stream.
    Favorite word: Persnickety.

    Effect/Review: The prologue helps establish the formal tone of the piece and funnels us into the plight of Jonathan Drake (who, interestingly, is never called “Professor” or “Doctor,” thus giving the reader an exclusive, inside look on personal matters no one else knows). Drake has had the best of everything—and expects the best, including the best t.p. The scenario unfolds that a rogue detail has been unaccounted for, that Drake has a susceptibility to cruciferous vegetables and, despite the absence of his best t.p., he is forced to excuse himself. Upon returning, the audience’s laughter alerts him to a problem, whereupon after a moment of suspense, Drake rises to the occasion by joining in the joke.

    Hi SueC! This is an awesome little story whose hilarity is showcased by some very artfully used contrasts and comparisons that help move the story along. For instance, you show us that Drake is a global man by name-dropping global places, then narrow it to a university, and then you narrow it even further: a bathroom. Then there are the contrasts. His ridiculous fetish against the commonness of necessity. Other contrasts, such as the wordplay showing contrast between Drake’s being a historian and, For the first time in history…, and the unpredictable results of an unexpected dish in the course of a well-ordered life, all help build the tension so that you only need one sentence to show the resolution and one sentence to show us that Jonathan Drake will never be the same person again because he’s learned to laugh at himself. I wish there was something more helpful I could say, but there isn’t. Your approach has a lot of class.

    Loved the tie-in with this month’s theme; good job!



    “A Near Miss”
    By luckyscars, Post #5
    SPaG: 4
    T/V: 5
    Effect: 9.5
    Overall: 18.5

    SPaG:
    Missing an indefinite article & included a stray period s/b: mare had resumed a fast, but I
    Missing capitalization: thank God
    Question, if she spasmed forward, was it an involuntary movement? Likewise, why not eyes for eyeballs? The one I read with a sense of person and the other as if we’ve been transported to the optometrist’s.

    Favorite word: juddering.

    T&V: The fast-paced dialogue gives this piece the sense of urgency it needs to completely involve the reader in Freddy and his affair, aiding the surprise ending. The excellent word choices convey setting and mood in an efficiency that requires a minimum of explanation (i.e., footmen, cigarette, mittened). We are there in his world. I especially liked this story’s distinct tone, which I think is perfectly fitting in style and technique.

    Favorite sentence: Taking out a cigarette, I lighted hers with trembling fingers.

    Effect/Review: A young lawyer obsessed with his lady friend ferrets her out of her father’s domain onto the open road where the two nearly overrun a small boy—Adolf Hitler.
    Thoughts in parallel help establish theme: comparing the man to an animal, the Count’s judgment of Freddy’s disreputable character (a warranted ‘appeal to authority’), she says Typical man, Freddy’s wrestling the mare to a halt, the savage blow to the child, the child’s “stupidity” (twice), and the grand reveal. Somehow, Freddy is exonerated as simply being a stupid man when faced by someone the reader knows has a truly evil mind—and therein lies the tie-in to our theme.

    Hi Luckyscars! Helpful things first. First, I think there is a historical gap here that needs some bridging. People stop cars all the time; why was Freddy’s wrestling the mare to a halt madness? Show us. People today don’t know horses. The lack of believability here makes the scene seem like a mechanical device for showing that Freddy has some sense of heroic decency to him after all and jolts the reader away from upon the masterful tone you’ve developed. Second, if this is the Count’s horse, then it is a very well-trained horse, and very well-trained horses are trained to voice commands—Freddy should have been shouting “whoa!” Any upper-middle class man of the time (1890’s) would have known to do this. Third, pearl vs. Pearl. Is it that the mare has a lustrous coat, or are we talking about a bloodline here? By the way, I didn’t count much off the score regarding the horse—you just had the bad luck to get a reader who knows horses & knows how to drive a light carriage.

    My final criticism is not related to the horse. There is a slight nuance in the story overall that I can’t seem to find the right words to describe, so I’ll just say it: there is a subtle yet forced feeling that doesn’t quite go away but becomes sharper when I walk away from the piece. Is this part & parcel for the genre? I don’t know. I didn’t include this in the score because it’s too vague.

    I loved being transported to your Gothic romance. The era painted is beautifully self-revealing, from the cariole to the formal and yet darkly imagined regard Freddy shows his lady friend. I get the idea that the shape to this story is more like a funnel bringing us to the grand reveal than of a circle requiring a repetitive an open/close repeat. This gave it the feeling of a much grander picture than a mere 650 words. And while Anna means the sea, the metaphor of the sea as a disguise for Freddy’s lust is particularly striking and, I think, very literary. While I am not well-versed in the genre, I especially enjoyed the artistry with which you have shared this with us. Thank you & good job!



    “The Butterfly Effect”
    By Buck06191, Post #6
    SPaG: 5
    T/V: 5
    Effect: 8
    Overall: 18

    SPaG: I found nothing distracting in this writer’s use of spelling or grammar.

    T&V: What I thought was interesting about this piece was how the narrator’s voice transformed in parallel with the change in his character—a nice illustration of this month’s theme. The steady, what’s-the-point-to-this-all narration asks first to be answered, wrestles in skepticism when confronted by an answer, and is motivated to accept that answer through the intense experience of release in his dream. He is like a man who has woken up and found his voice.

    Sentence length contributed to the effect. Notice the number of short sentences, 7 words or less, in the first two-thirds of the story; there are none in the last third. Likewise, the majority number of sentences in the final section are 20 words or more. The placement of either a long or short sentence amid its opposite really seems to be what sets the tone by altering the pace with which the narrator tells his story.

    Effect/Review: A man down on his luck is drowning his sorrows in a pint when a stranger gives him a gift—a dream—which transforms him into a man of vision. The bartender who says I just do my job and go home is a picture of the man nursing his pint. This is where he, too, is when we first meet him, except for one difference. He has a question it is doubtful anyone can answer. In contrast, the fellow sitting beside him doesn’t seem to have a care in the world. He’s got faith. What he’s got faith in is a mathematical equation. This, too, seems mundane at first. Down-on-his-luck hears out the Mr. advert’s explanation and later that night, he dreams about what that equation means. Potential, then, becomes a hope-substitute. No longer is he like the bartender, without hope—he has become a man of faith. But more than that, he is a man released from his question and is more capable of living life than he could before imagine.

    Favorite line & incidentally, states the theme: small changes can have large effects

    Hi Buck06191, nice work! Nice contrasts, especially how the introduction of the advert man is in parallel to the butterfly effect itself—a small, unexpected change generating grand consequences. The external physical contrast in actions between being slumped over the bar and how he got up and turned on the tap reflect his internal change from despair to hope. Sadly, the story itself didn’t stick with me. Maybe it’s just me as a reader, but it didn’t stay with me after I put it down. Excellent job on the technical side. I look forward to reading your submission next month!



    “It Could Have Been Anyone”
    By Bardling, Post #7
    SPaG: 3
    T/V: 3
    Effect: 5
    Overall: 11

    SPaG:
    Missing coma: stood up, the shard in her hand, and. Or, She stood up and with the... (depends on the tone you want).
    Incomplete sentence: And if they had done it before. With this and similar constructions, I think you’re aiming for short statements that has a lot of punch, but it needs more support to deliver that punch.

    Regarding grammar, I struggled with this piece’s use of it. “It” always refers back to an object, but in the first paragraph the it is 70 words away from the object “it” refers to. Additionally, repeatedly starting with a conjunction (And), or with a pronoun (It, Something), or with a preposition (On, In), without first having that concrete referent in place early-on in the sentence or the paragraph preceding its use makes it a tad jarring for the reader who then has to search around to find out what we’re talking about.

    T&V: The tone has a foreboding feel, a sense that something big is about to happen…but there is also a sense of melodrama, too. This melodrama seems to come from the many abrupt, short statements meant to communicate a concluding thought with punch, but they have too little support to deliver that punch. The writer’s vocabulary and phrasing are consistent, but I’m not finding it particularly effective. (See below.)

    Favorite sentence: --mostly because of the girly screams.

    Effect/Review: Tracy is in a parallel world, scraping by to make a living and dreaming that she will obtain something to make the people she works for back off a little in their ill treatment of her. An unexpected discovery brings her the very thing she desires. With it, she can manipulate it to her desires—and what she desires will rearrange the whole power structure of this alternate world. Nice tie-in with this month’s theme, especially with the randomness in which Tracy finds this shard and how this small change has a big effect.

    This piece has an open/close device in Tracy, in the contrast between her powerlessness to her new found power. This external transformation of her situation seems to draw from a larger fantasy world where opportunities and boundaries that are clearly defined (at least, in the mind of the character). Boundaries in fantasy are really important because they make the unusual seem normal within the scope of the story, so this was very well done.

    The biggest thing I struggled with in this story is that I feel like I’m being told about a story and not being shown a story. Telling is effective in moving the reader between scenes, explaining the passage of time or setting, but it gets a little preachy when it’s the main storytelling device. Plus, there is so much surrounding detail here, maybe there is a way to make these other elements more succinct, or are they needed at all?

    What I really like about this piece is that it’s like we’re living out a computer game. I think this makes it highly relational to gamers who might also want to read about stories in fantasy settings reminiscent of their favorite gaming platforms. Is this a piece of fan fiction? If not, you seem to have a good handle on how this world should work so it might be worth it to you to write something longer and seeing where it goes. Good job! Keep at it!



    “Tragedy of the Blind Lepidopterist”
    By Rookish, Post #8
    SPaG: 2.5
    T/V: 2
    Effect: 5
    Overall: 9.5

    SPaG: Numbers one through nine should be written out: day four. Abbreviations in writing, such as 300m? Best to avoid. Capitalizations for titles are expected, but why is Single capitalized? Missing article: of the class. Missing coma: Goodbye, butterfly. Wordchoice: should subterra be subterranean? The opening character’s name changes from Kelara to Ketara.

    T&V: Much of this story takes on not only a disaffected tone, but one distant from the emotional content of the story as well. It is a tale with a message, not a story. Because little affection is shown the characters and their plight, little affection is demanded of the readers by the writer. In the future, incorporating empathy into the character’s plight may help strengthen your writerly voice.

    Rhyme: she & glee. Has a negative effect on tone & highlights an unsteady rhythm and pacing in the language used. This tells me the writer likes the sounds of her own words (who doesn’t?) but learning to use it with skill will only come with time, practice, and reading a lot of fiction.

    Uses a profuse amount of short sentences and separates idea thoughts into smaller and smaller units.
    Like this one.
    Not good.
    Choppy.

    Effect/Review: The setting is a polluted world where we meet Kelara, who has just abandoned her baby. We jump to a scene at the Lucky Beetle where Plusher Party members are meeting to discuss business. They eat Kelara’s baby. The scene changes to the assignation of the rival Admincorp’s leader. Then the scene changes again to the city, then narrows to an underground facility where the leadership is hiding from the rioting (caused by the assassination). After sealing themselves in, they release a virus to kill the city’s inhabitants. In the final scene, we watch Ketara die as she thinks about her baby. There is also a B-story involved, implied that Kelara was first Smith-Xao’s lover and is now the Directorian’s mistress (not exactly clear).

    Hi Rookish! May I show you something I hope will be useful as you develop as a writer? Here is a chart showing your sentence lengths:

    Sentence length Usage x’s %
    1-5 29 39%
    6-10 21 28%
    11-15 15 20%
    16-20 6 8%
    21+ 3 4%
    Total sentences used 74


    What this tells me is, by the numbers alone, that your writing could benefit from exploring longer sentence lengths and varying grammatical constructions. What I’m seeing here is a breakdown of both the sentence and the paragraph into units almost too small to convey the message. Likewise, with 5 scenes, 6 locations, 4 parties, and 11(?) characters, there is a lot going on in this very short piece. There really is too much here for the reader to take in.

    Kudos to you that you’re ambitious. Keep writing. Science Fiction is a great genre for conveying messages of morality, so keep up the good work. I look forward to reading your selection next month.



    “Upon Wings of Passion”
    By Epimetheus, Post #9
    SPaG: 5
    T/V: 5
    Effect: 10
    Overall: 20

    SPaG:
    Missing coma: “Please…,” was

    T&V: The voice that calls for vengeance is bitter, confident in hatred, yet it is tamed by the humble courage of a child. This contrast in imagery (peace/destruction), theme (injustice/mercy), and in emotion (rage/timidity) drive the story. The narrator’s reminiscence flares this all to life but briefly, reminded again that what remains of her former rage is but spent coals cooling with the dawn. The first-person narrative is a great fit for this story.

    Favorite sentence: Fear looked different from this side: I would never have believed it, but it was even more ugly.

    Effect/Review: A sorceress storms the city where she had years before been burned at the stake and then hunted like an animal. It is now the moment of her finest accomplishment, burning the city that burned her. Until a child asks for mercy. It releases the MC’s own memories of calling for mercy, and in that recognition, her wrath is spent. Gone is the hatred, vanished is her unhuman army. The recollection of the event from years later scoffs at the arrogance of the city in their pronouncement of victory, but still she has respect for the one person in the city who had the courage to ask for mercy. Nice tie-in to this month’s theme with the transforming power held by one courageous child’s request!

    Hi Epimetheus. Not my usual choice of reading fare, but this was actually pretty good. Really good—I like to be pleasantly surprised. About the title, would the phrase form the text make more sense: Upon Wings of Mercy. (?) What’s really interesting about this piece is how you used a rather complicated backstory to explain the present circumstances, but did so efficiently and with compassion for the MC. This worked to draw the reader in (me, at least) and take an interest in it, despite my better sense to avoid unhuman spectral things that slash in the night. Mercy was not what I expected; it can be a difficult concept and I think you portrayed it well. The reason I gave it the score I did is because, after having set it aside, your story kept coming back and bothering me all week. Well done!



    “Out of Time”
    By Stygian, Post #11
    SPaG: 3.5
    T/V: 3.5
    Effect: 6.0
    Overall: 13.0

    SPaG:
    Verb tense: Fear and dread were
    Compound words s/b: floodlight
    Definite verses indefinite article usage. The fear; why not just fear? A single floodlight; is there one among many? A door; okay, there may be more than one door. Can you say this in a more concrete way?

    T&V: The developing tension is nicely brought about from repeated use of short sentences. Mark’s comments reveal his helpless confusion and the hit man’s dialogue reveal his assured confidence. I would have liked to have seen some more variation in sentence construction, not length so much as in length but in variety of type, which I think would give it a stronger tone.

    A body—now, that works. In using the indefinite, the android demeans the value of his replacement and thus suggesting he is superior to his original. Nice add to tone.


    Effect/Review: The inventor of Facebook is targeted by a hit man from the future only to be replaced by an android at the last minute. This creates quite a comic ending. Nice use of this month’s theme in switching out the real Mark for the body double!

    Hi Stygian! Good going having an open/close that reverses the story; it created conflict. However, the repetitive use of the indefinite article adds to the sense that even the reader can’t really know what’s going on. I suppose it does in a way mimic Mark’s confusion, but there are so many nice concrete images—a wooden chair (clearly, while any chair it’s a wooden), his pocket, the spreading fire—that I don’t think this was done on purpose. I also struggled with timing; some of the dialogue and supporting statements seem out-of-sync, as if they’re explanatory instead of revelatory. Tied to this is the use of was. Passive verbs might seem to help add to the sense of impending doom, but that’s just it—they’re passive. Because I’m being told a story and not shown a story, I’m finding it a bit harder to connect emotionally with it. Overall, I liked your story. The best part was that I didn’t expect the ending! (LOL! Now we know the truth of the matter….) I think humor is very hard to write, so good job!



    “A Memory from the Past”
    By Kebe, Post #12
    SPaG: 3.5
    T/V: 4.5
    Effect: 9
    Overall: 17

    SPaG: My sixth sense tells me that the writer is not a native English speaker; with that usage in mind, I’ve scored this as being more correct than being in error. Your task will be to lose your ‘accent’ in your writing. (And if I’m wrong in this, please take it as the helpful observation that’s intended.)

    Here are some things that may help:
    The Chicago Style Manual advises spelling out numbers one through one-hundred.
    Missing possessive, s/b granddaughters’
    Some of the coma usage can be shored up. Not needed: …why he was there, and (unless wanted for tone as a visual pause). Needed: dark, careless… Not needed: wear off and… Awkward: weak smile, while… (Should it be an independent thought in a second sentence?) Needed: …shortly after, the sheriff....; and in schools, but ever since that day, I…

    T&V: We see things from Richard’s perspective, through the daze of recovering from the car accident and surgery. I actually liked the use of was throughout this story because, even though a passive verb, it helped slow down the story’s pacing. This added to the reader’s experience of his restive, yet disoriented, feeling.

    Favorite sentence: They looked at each other for a long time, like two duelists, until the nurse cleared her throat in an effort to break the awkwardness building in the room. This was our turning point in the narrative and, once confronted by the awkwardness, from here the reader gets the sense there is no further awkwardness that will need to be overcome. I think it adds much to the overall voice of the piece.

    Nice idiom: rang a bell.

    Effect/Review: Richard, a retired school teacher, is on his way to his granddaughter’s birthday when he’s in an accident. While recovering in the hospital, the surgeon comes in to talk with him. There is a slight familiarity about her he can’t place, but then she tells him who she was and what he did for her, and now how she does for others.

    Hi Kebe! Oh-my-goodness, I love tear jerkers! This story has a lot of heart. It’s mature, well thought out, and has much dignity. And the reader (me, at least) gets a sense of satisfaction in peeking into Mr. Olsen’s life. The only thing I regret about this piece is that, at least here in the states, it might be taken as a bit idealistic—and perhaps, not truly believable. For example, a friend of mine who had an advocate within the foster care system actually had the rare opportunity to be encouraged to pursue higher education. Mostly, he said, the sad reality was that most foster kids in the state where he was raised barely finished high school. I hope it’s different where you’re from. On the other hand, another friend, who taught university-level psychology classes for many years, once told me about the studies that have been done on how children raised in less than ideal family situations often are the ones who go out and try to better themselves more so than those who had an ideal family life. So, I guess our surgeon’s backstory is more believable than I first thought; I’ll leave my thoughts here in case they’re useful.

    Final thoughts… Tightening up your coma usage by gaining a better grasp of conjunctive phrases and dependent clauses will help steady your tone and your story’s effect upon the reader. Plus, the opening, He couldn’t figure out why he was there, ties in nicely with the surgeon’s closing explanation that he saved not only her life, but countless of others as well. It’s also a nice tie-in to our theme—particularly in its life-affirming message! I really enjoyed this story and hope to read more of your work in the future.



    “7291878 rocky mountain”
    By anon

    SPaG:
    Capitalize: Gregorian. (Unless you’ve stylized it on purpose.)
    Spelling: recedes

    T&V: Uh… I can tell you’re having fun with this one, but since I can’t tell what it’s about, I kind-of feel left to blundering about in the eclipse of your artistry. I like the word imagery, the repetitive, diminishing sounds, the competition between audible versus visible recognition of things. The sounds ground us to the setting and the hat widens the narrative. I’m going to say the tone is industrious? The voice is clear and strong, only, well you know already.

    Effect/Review: Hi Anon! Okay, I’ll be honest. I like it, but I don’t get it. (What’s it about, anyway?) Sounds like he’s rock climbing out at Joshua Tree during a solar eclipse? (Do they have yucca and prickly pear in the Rocky Mountains?) The sub-theme completely misses me, too. (Sorry!) It has something to do with a financial crisis. But then, we’re flung again to the guy who was stuck out there on the ledge in the first place, and he’s thirsty. (A symbolic ledge?) I know this is a terrible review… On the bright side, it gives you…perspective?

    Wait a second… you’re writing about carving something, not rock climbing—aren’t you? My first thought was Mount Rushmore, but that didn’t begin until the 1920’s. The MC is not an expert rock cutter. The heads are those supervising from above. The water keeps the saw blade from warping or seizing. (This is actually a really cool little story.) The hat identifies the wearer, becomes a bit of theme in itself. (But, who’s the man?) I’m giving it such a high score despite not knowing what it’s about because it’s a fun mystery. Plus, I have no reason to doubt (from the story) that the writer doesn’t have something specific in mind; only, from the clues given, I just haven’t been able to put them together fully. That also means I haven’t pieced together where the butterfly effect fits into this. When you have the chance, can you explain this a little better? By the way, I hope you write in this style again—even though I didn’t succeed at doing so, it’s been fun trying to figure out the clues.



    “Family Tree”
    By anon, Post #14
    SPaG: 4
    T/V: 3
    Effect: 7
    Overall: 14

    SPaG:
    Coma usage in dependent clauses: ...very much, even though…; …would give them meat, Sister… …Catching a branch, she

    T&V: The tone begins playfully, with a sense of discovery that ends in the self-defense killing of a dangerous predator. But the truly dark moment is when Ata is cast out from her family. In a strange twist of irony, this sadness of rejection is perhaps what forces her to keep the cruel instrument that saved her life. However, I thought the tone was a bit lacking in punch and distinctiveness. I liked the narrative, but the story is too evenly paced. For example, when we transition from playful discovery to self-defense, the sentence length remains the same as do the and sentence structures used. Perhaps taking sentences where you have semi colons and changing those sentences into two might be a way to begin increasing the tension?

    Effect/Review: Ata makes a series of discoveries that a stick can extend her reach or kill a beast. For her actions she is exiled, forced to survive apart from her family and her dear sister, until one day, 6.5 million years later, her human descendent recognizes her “sister” in a chimp.

    Hi Anon! What a fun story! Nice open/close with eons of development in-between! Even though much of the story was implied, as in the butterfly and the jaguar (?), it otherwise very easy to follow. A believability question: do apes have tails? I thought prehensile tails were found only on South American monkeys—not their African cousins—which is also why I thought the cat in the tree was a jaguar. Or, do you mean that it lost its tail due to evolution? Confusion aside, I liked the progression of discovery Ata experiences. There’s a lot of cause and effect going on here, repeated discoveries with what she can do with the stick and the social concerns that grow out of it. Ata’s awareness of her situation is something, I think, the reader identifies with. This month’s theme, of course, is prompted by her chasing the butterfly to begin with—and what effects we get from this! Nice tie-in with this month’s theme. Good work! I’m looking forward to reading more of your stories in the future.



    “Change Time”
    By Godofwine, Post #15
    SPaG: 2.5
    T/V: 4
    Effect: 8.5
    Overall: 15

    SPaG:
    Regarding formatting, it might help to include a line between paragraphs so the reader has an easier time telling one paragraph from another.
    Tenses…as your MC is seeing a future that won’t be, would it make better sense for the narration to be in the present tense?
    Wrong word choice: every memory they (s/b that)
    Spacing issues throughout: andthen. If your word processing program isn’t helping you pick this out, then your next best solution might be to print out what you have and review a hardcopy before submitting.

    T&V: Tragic and chaotic with a bittersweet moment of clarity. There is an appropriate amount of action and detail—it’s a Civic, cars zoomed, touched his fingers, diving goalie—and nice use of metaphor—a sea of waiting teammates—that gives substance to the story in this tragic moment. I noticed the foreshadowing—an eternal smile, two flights of stairs—also had a subtle appropriateness that in no way detracted from how the story unfolds. In fact, nothing in it seems either too long or too short; it strikes a balance between sentence length and content, between reality and the momentary imaginings of daughter’s life-not-lived. I thought the tone of this piece was well matched to its tragic story.

    Favorite sentence: He looked in disgust at the dented-in passenger door, into the backseat, then back at the road. We get a sense of his mood the moment before he realizes the semi is going to hit—and then his thoughts change from his crumpled car to his precious daughter. I know you’ve got a verbal nod to the butterfly effect at the end of the story, but I think this is your butterfly moment. Nothing is ever going to be the same again.

    Effect/Review: Harold and his small daughter have just been in an accident when, seconds later, he sees that an oncoming will be unable to avoid ramming them. The disgust of his damaged car fades as he realizes that their lives will be taken, and in his final moments, the joyous details of her small life that should have been lived unfold before his mind.

    Hi Godofwine! Wow. You just jumped in there and got our blood boiling didn’t you? I loved it. I think the reason this story worked so well for me as your reader was that, even though it’s Harold’s imaging of his daughter’s life, it is told with such such sensory detail it has to be real. We hear her scream excitedly; we watch her stroll across the stage. The repeated sounds of the deafening semi, her name is called, her rambling on the phone, then the world exploding in undifferentiated noises—it all add to the audial imagery of the event and his fantasy. What a contrast between horror and joy. There is so much going on here, yet it unfolds like a poem; the repeated tears falling bring the reader back to the reality of what’s happening. Because it seems to have depth like a poem, I get the impression that the next time I read it that I will pick up more of what has not been said; there is so much here that has been left unsaid. And the writer doesn’t need to say it. Some helpful things… I would like to know what color his daughter’s eyes were, to show these aren’t just his thoughts about thoughts of her but about her, if you get what I mean. The ending with his final thought being of a butterfly doesn’t quite seem right. All of his musings are about his daughter; the butterfly seems like a forced after-thought It’s symbolism for change doesn’t fit because it’s not important to him—his daughter was. Why would she not be his final thought? Can you link her to the butterfly? Then it might make more sense. Overall, I really enjoyed your story and look forward to reading your submission next month!


    -xXx-:

    Tim
    “Feedback"
    Spelling/Grammar: 4/5
    Tone/Voice: 5/5
    Effect: 8/10
    Overall: 17/20

    Review
    thanks for submitting.
    title points
    trigger label points

    "How the hell did she do that?" he thought.

    "Compared to Creation, moving you and your chair is child's play. Get it?" she asked, grinning and pointing to herself. "Child's play...Me...A child...Ah, never mind."

    The high-pitched-squeal in his mind faded to a tranquil, serene peace. The golden-haired girl walked beside him, holding his hand with her tiny, warm hand.


    feedback and crosstalk.
    like the casual approach to high action.


    SueC
    “Toilet Paper Wings"
    Spelling/Grammar: 5/5
    Tone/Voice: 5/5
    Effect: 8/10
    Overall: 18/20

    Review
    thanks for submitting.
    title matches
    character development points, most people relate.


    Like a skywriters stream, a long, white band followed him down the aisle and up to the podium. The room erupted in laughter and Jonathan, initially unable to determine the joke, soon realized that they were laughing at him.

    For the first time in recorded history, Jonathan Drake, historian extraordinaire, got the joke; and he laughed.

    "A funny thing happened on my way to . . . "



    luckyscars
    “A Near Miss"
    Spelling/Grammar: 5/5
    Tone/Voice: 5/5
    Effect: 8/10
    Overall: 18/20

    Review
    thanks for submitting.
    title points, wit
    trigger label points
    historical context, artist adolf as aside
    i look forward to reading more.


    buck06191
    “The Butterfly Effect"
    Spelling/Grammar: 5/5
    Tone/Voice: 5/5
    Effect: 8/10
    Overall: 18/20

    Review
    thanks for submitting.
    title?
    tattoo, rose->grateful deadish teacher
    first person points

    love this device:
    As he said this he started drawing a repeating figure eight, switching halves seemingly at random, until it almost resembled a butterfly’s wings. He reached out and touched my hand, pushing the napkin into my closed fist, then got up and walked out of the bar.

    Where the stranger in the bar had touched me there was now a small black mark in the shape of a butterfly’s wings.


    Bardling
    “It Could Have Been Anyone"
    Spelling/Grammar: 5/5
    Tone/Voice: 5/5
    Effect: 8/10
    Overall: 18/20

    Review
    thanks for submitting.
    title points
    amazing use of language.
    hmmm, how do i feel about specific contemporaryish names.
    (this ended up being a significant decision)

    It could have been anyone. This time, it was Tracy.

    wow!
    bird's eye to worm's eye, powerful!
    worldbuilder.

    Rookish
    “Tragedy of the blind Lepidopterist"
    Spelling/Grammar: 5/5
    Tone/Voice: 5/5
    Effect: 8/10
    Overall: 18/20

    Review
    good to see you about
    points for trigger label
    title points
    form points, font was a little tricky onscreen.

    "Goodbye butterfly," Merinda whispered.

    The Paxcorp, serving as both police and millitary, turned upon itself. Blood flowed into the sewers.

    The virus was released.

    In that moment she thought of all the many galaxies and birds.
    She remembered the most heavenly three months of her life.
    She spent them with her son.

    Cenket Smith-Xao.

    She died smiling.

    i want to see this as a graphic novel.
    worldbuilder.
    jussayin'


    epimetheus
    “Upon Wings of Passion"
    Spelling/Grammar: 5/5
    Tone/Voice: 5/5
    Effect: 9/10
    Overall: 19/20

    Review
    title points.
    vivid.
    amazing what you do with language.
    first person points.
    choice AS points.

    "Yes, every part of my body remembered how they tortured me, how they gave me the crimson scars that twist down my whole body; obscene veins that made others see me as if through a fractured mirror."

    "Some memory picked at a loose thread in my violent tapestry."

    "I like to think one woman in the city knows."


    multiverse builder.
    jussayin'

    Megan Pearson
    “The Butterfly Effect"


    Review
    title?
    very human/human influence-relatable.

    It took a moment for the biofeedback stimulator to kick in and passively augment Mary’s brainwave patterns.

    He chuckled, but hate darkened his eyes. “When they come to arrest you,” he said under his breath, “I’ll be there.” He backed away, stepping into Ella. His demeanor turned flirtatious as he made the best of the mishap with her pretty research assistant, but as he strode away he shot back a rude glare.

    “When I grow up, I want to be just like you, momma. I want to be a doctor, momma. I want to cure kids just like me.”


    biofeedback points

    Stygian
    “Out of Time"
    Spelling/Grammar: 5/5
    Tone/Voice: 5/5
    Effect: 7/10
    Overall: 17/20

    Review
    title points
    trigger label points
    hmmm, how do i feel about specific contemporary people?
    (significant to assessment)
    words are better than actions.

    “Kid, that program will kill millions. People will use manufactured information to start mass dissent, uprisings, and throw us back to the dark ages.” The man laughed and playfully slapped Mark on his face. “Hard to believe you’re so naive.” The man stood up, he glared down at Mark. “Cut the shit, kid, just give me the code.” The smell of acrid smoke was getting worse. Mark could see a fire starting to come to life where the man flicked his cigarette.


    Kebe
    “A Memory from the Past"
    Spelling/Grammar: 5/5
    Tone/Voice: 5/5
    Effect: 8/10
    Overall: 18/20

    Review
    title, like the connection point aspect.
    in this context, not seen as redundant.
    your language choices are rich.
    not too much, not too skimpy.
    very human/human influence-relatable.

    The nurse spoke with her whole face.

    There were so many questions bubbling inside him, but he lacked the strength to push them over his lips.

    They looked at each other for a long time, like two duelists, until the nurse cleared her throat in an effort to break the awkwardness building in the room.

    The memories rushed back like a bucket of cold water. He tried to sit up, but fatigue and pain drove him back into the pillow.

    In the surgeon’s freckled face, he could see that little girl with a gullible smile and eyes filled with laughter.

    anon
    “Family Tree"
    Spelling/Grammar: 5/5
    Tone/Voice: 5/5
    Effect: 10/10
    Overall: 20/20

    Review
    i do not have adequate words
    to convey
    how impressed i am
    with this!!!
    publish!
    nothing fancy or flashy.
    subtle strength.
    pointedly pointy points.
    evolution AS which side of the glass?

    Ata was no longer welcome among her people; they were afraid of her. Wailing with sorrow she ran into the jungle, dragging the bloodied stick behind. She would have to survive her own way, find her own path.


    6.5 million years later...


    Kaley pulled her mother into the primate building.

    "Chimps, Mommy, I want to see the chimps!"

    Kaley ran to the thick window and looked in; a young chimpanzee was picking bits of food off the ground. It looked up and caught Kaley's eyes. They both stared silently, sharing a strange recognition. The young ape shuffled over to put its hand against the window where Kaley's palm was pressed. The girl whispered to the almost-human face behind the glass.

    "Sister..."

    ---

    Godofwine
    “Change Time"
    Spelling/Grammar: 4/5
    Tone/Voice: 5/5
    Effect: 8/10
    Overall: 17/20

    Review
    first off, thanks for submitting.
    posted format, not too distracting
    now, not, was-neatly packaged for short form.
    Harold's daughter have a name?
    moments measured in tears.
    breath breadth.

    "As the unavoidable moment of impact loomed before him, he turned toward the back seat."
    "He was supposed protect her, and he couldn’t. A simulationof every memory they would never have flowed into his mind’s eye."


    love the (sensory summary) depths traveled in the final paragraph.


    Table:

    Entry Arachne Megan Pearson -xXx bdcharles Total
    Feedback - Tim 12 13.5 17 13 13.875
    Toilet Paper Wings - SueC 15.5 19.5 18 15 17
    Near Miss - Luckyscars 14 18.5 18 18 17.125
    The Butterfly Effect - buck06191 13.5 18 18 13.5 15.75
    It Could Have Been Anyone - Bardling 8 11 18 15.5 13.125
    Tragedy of the blind Lepidopterist - Rookish 8.5 9.5 18 17.5 13.375
    Upon Wings of Passion - epimetheus 13.5 20 19 18 17.625
    The Butterfly Effect - Megan Pearson (j/e) - - - - -
    Out of Time - Stygian 14.5 13 17 12 14.125
    A Memory from the Past - Kebe 15 17 18 12 14.125
    07291878 rocky mountain - anon/-xXx- - - - - -
    Family Tree - anon (velo) 13 14 20 15.5 15.625
    Change Time - Godofwine 9 15 17 15 14


    So your winner this time is

    Epimetheus
    with
    Upon Wings Of Passion


    Followed by
    Near Miss - Luckyscars

    and
    Toiler Paper Wings - SueC


    So well done Epimetheus, Luckyscars and Sue, and thank you Arachne, Megan and -xXx- for your support. Great turn out this month guys - long may it continue

    To the next!


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





  2. #2
    Well worth the wait, bdcharles, your effort is appreciated. Thanks to judges, especially with so many entries this month and congrats to everyone for fielding such a strong line up. My favourite was Tragedy of the blind Lepidopterist - interesting how the visual presentation had an impact on my interpretation of the story.

    @Megan Pearson
    About the title, would the phrase form the text make more sense: Upon Wings of Mercy. (?)
    I flittered through several titles on this one, and Upon the Wings of Mercy was the working title for most of it. I decided against it as i didn't want to give away that she would spare anyone. Also i wanted to play with the idea that mercy is a passion as much as rage and could be a source of magical power - but didn't have space to explore that aspect.
    Glad you enjoyed it.

    @bdcharles
    And yes, for my sins, I imagined that the POV was male. Burn me; set me to flame.
    Yeah, i wondered if that would catch anyone. And yes, the butterflies were mentioned just to ensure everyone got that was the moment of change.

    @Arachne
    I wish I had been able to decipher the plot and significance of the ending...
    Sorry you got lost in it, but thanks for giving it 4 goes. I always struggle with knowing how clear to make things and how much i can rely on the readers to fill in themselves. I did think i might lose people at the burning at the stake, but i wanted to test it.

    @-xXx-
    multiverse builder.
    jussayin'
    Hadn't seen a fantasy offering in LM so thought i'd give it a go. Maybe i've found my niche...

  3. #3
    Congrats to the placers, those who submitted a story and the winner. Great job everyone. See you next month.

  4. #4
    Global Moderator velo's Avatar
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    Thanks, judges! And congrats to the winners!

    Just a point of clarification, the original title of "Family Tree" was "Common Anscestor," which I changed to try to give the ending a little more punch. 6.5mil years ago neither chimps nor humans existed. Best guess we have is that the last common ancestor of the two species was a large, lemur-like primate. So that's why there was a tail.
    My blog- Hidden Content thoughts on trauma and healing through psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy

    "When a child is abused, he or she will often internalise that abuse as deserved. It is a cruel reality that a child needs the parent so much, is evolutionarily programmed to trust them so implicitly, that when a parent is abusive the child will take the blame rather than completely upend their world and blame the person they depend on for survival." -velo

  5. #5
    Member
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    Congratulations Epimetheus! Once again, I learned a lot from the judges and from reading all the great stories in this round. I appreciate everybody's hard work behind the scenes to make this happen.

    @Megan Pearson – Your sixth sense is correct and I am thankful for your suggestions on how I can improve my use of the language.

  6. #6
    Mentor Megan Pearson's Avatar
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    Everyone did a fantastic job! I really enjoyed reading all of the stories.

    For anyone new to this who would like to judge (maybe come June???), since I'm pretty new to it too, let me just say it is a rewarding challenge! I know I've learned a ton from trying my best to understand how each story worked and why, and then in trying to provide helpful feedback. If you do try judging, it will absolutely make you more aware of things you are doing in your own writing!
    "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
    ~ John A. Shedd


  7. #7
    Member Bardling's Avatar
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    I joined the forum for constructive criticism & I definitely got it from the judges. That really does make me happy, because it helps me improve and I get feedback on what works in my writing.

    The consensus seems to be that I have a tendency to overly complicate my sentences and I need to work on my grammar a little. I have difficulty with making characters, so I am glad that tone was something that worked for most of the judges. I feel I did better with characterization than I expected, but I feel that I am bad on that so I had low expectations to begin with.

    Arachne - I am story that the story did not work for you. The other judges seemed to follow along a bit better, so I think it might be a genre thing. The story is definitely Fantasy. I like Science Fiction, Fantasy and Alternate history. Contemporary and literary work tends to bore me at best, though I keep trying to read them, and I have no interest in writing them. I have a feeling that many of the terms that bothered you are genre specific. Ichor, for example, is used quite often in fantasy to describe the bodily fluids of things that do not have blood. I could have researched the correct term for spiders, but the protagonist wouldn't know it and wouldn't care.
    It is a bit of a synopses of the plot of a longer work. I am sorry that she seemed ambivalent. The story starts as just another day for her, if a bit more unpleasant because of her temporary employers, and then turns into a very dangerous situation. I tried to convey her emotions through varying the sentence length and word choice, but it is obviously something I need to work on.

    BDCharles - I will work on simplifying my sentence structure while maintaining the expressive turns of phrase. Thank you for your encouragement and I am glad you enjoyed it!

    Meaghan Pearson - I definitely need to work on my sentence structure. I really should have had only one sentence start with "And". Regarding the use of "it" in the first paragraph, I think that I could have worded things better. The first it was meant to tie to the someone in the first sentence. I meant the story to seem foreboding but not the melodrama.
    The story is not fanfiction, really, but is taken from a larger story idea, with a lot of backstory. I admit to stealing the founding idea (weak phantasmal servant shard accidentally transformed into something much stronger) but most of the identifying marks (the focus, how shards work, the world they are set in, the protagonist, their gender, background and motivation, etc) have been changed. ( I do need a different name for the Shards, and the specific "Phantasmal Servant" shard before I would consider publishing it. And I would credit the author as inspiration in the forward, with the name of the story. Its only polite.)(The story I stole it from, Phantasmal Party by Trey Myr has harem elements. It isn't a bad story otherwise, if you don't mind that sort of thing. I do, but not enough to stop reading it. And its cheap! He is self published, but of decent quality. And you can read the sequel as he is writing it on Royal Road.)
    I need to work on showing, rather than telling. I tend to lecture.

    -xXx- The names are contemporary because the story is set in a world that was just like ours up until about 60 or so years ago. Its based on a story idea I did a lot of world building on.

  8. #8
    Mentor Megan Pearson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bardling View Post
    I joined the forum for constructive criticism & I definitely got it from the judges. That really does make me happy, because it helps me improve and I get feedback on what works in my writing.
    Hey Bardling,

    That's the spirit! The reviews are certainly not meant to nit-pick but to help the writer gain perspective on what works / what can be improved upon. As you progress, you'll find that you don't need to apologize for not pleasing an audience (even judges!), so just take what you can and learn from it as you are able. One thing's for sure, it's not going to happen overnight--so don't be too hard on yourself, either. I have a manuscript of my own I'm dusting off that I thought was pretty good when I wrote it twelve years ago. Let me be the first to say, rereading it has been painful--boy, does it needs help! So, while we may all at different levels of learning, we are all still learning!

    It sounds like you're doing the two best activities for becoming a better writer: reading a lot & writing your own stuff. Most of all, I hope you (and others here) have fun and get out of this what you are able.

    Again, I'm looking forward to your story this month!

    Take care!

    Megan
    "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
    ~ John A. Shedd


  9. #9
    k.
    personal goal, this response.

    accolades all around.
    i look forward to this every month.
    judging is developmental potential.

    megan, may i get your permission to use
    the following on all of my written material?
    Quote Originally Posted by Megan Pearson View Post
    "I like it, but I don’t get it."
    Megan
    working with scripting the nodes concepts
    (a kind of unified field theory)

    apotrop(e)aic
    the role of ambiguity(faceless/nameless-ness) in te.(r)ror methods, normalization

    the use of science to mesmerize/mystify

    intersection/collision patterns disturbing/obscurring cause-effect
    appearance of arbitrary/coincidental
    butterfly effect
    hundredth monkey
    concurrent discovery/universal consciousness/common sense
    intention dis.guise

    the spirit of a thing, immortal abstraction

    subverted influence(s)
    as in Eyes of Laura Mars
    enormous burdens placed on prey within survival scene
    while subjected to internalized self-perception as prey
    by overriding predator point-of-view,
    ref john howard carpenter ie:culture, cue

    clop, clop. substitution for tick, tock
    (micro extension of cosmic clock and "cyclic embedding as economic")
    hat substitution for restoring function
    i'll leave water to the reader

    multiple layers of potential relationships between "characters"
    one person, three aspects; did the horseman/hero return to a traumatic place?
    two persons, did the horseman/hero provide critical assistance to a traumatized/wounded person, Dugger?
    three "persons", is the banished entity (induced? panic, immortal) separate from horseman hero and Dugger?

    are these ideas helpful?

    nah, i'm not best seller material.
    Last edited by -xXx-; May 11th, 2019 at 08:00 PM.

  10. #10
    Nice. Moment I read Upon Wings of Passion I knew it was a winner. Words mesh well. Story expansive. Fantasy subverted.... peace through conscience, not conflict. No antagonist is needed against a determined protagonist, for the emotions of the protagonist, perhaps instinctual genetic facets, defeat the original goals.

    Thus a city saved... for the peril has grown ashamed.

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